Disclaimer: The following blog is not in defense of current law. I fully understand the concept of disobedience to unjust laws. While reading, please keep in mind that good policy stems from laws that are applied equally and across the board. No law, positive or negative, should target a specific group of people.
Today there is a Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Meeting for House Bill 965, the 911 Medical Amnesty Bill. You can read the bill here, but essentially, HB 965 (which is what I like to call a “heart-string bill”…tug tug) would provide protection against arrest for drug or alcohol-related charges for people who call 911 on behalf of those facing a life-threatening overdose and would in turn allow expanded access to medication used to halt overdose reactions. Representative Sharon Cooper is the primary sponsor of this bill. Currently, 16 other states (and D.C.) have similar laws and 13 other states are considering 911 Medical Amnesty laws.
I’ll be frank: I don’t like the bill. I don’t particularly care for laws that would help (or hurt) a certain group of people. We call these laws unjust. Similar to Haley’s Hope Act (the medical cannabis legislation), which privileges a very specific group of people with access to a different type of healthcare while excluding a plethora of other diseases, HB 965 limits legal ramifications for those who over-consume. Some may argue that this is because of use and/or possession, not the sale of such drugs. Regardless, this legislation specifically limits legal prosecution of some simply because they used too much of a certain illegal substance.
Proponents of the bill claim that people should not have to choose between death and legal repercussions for their loved ones in the chaos of an overdose. This argument can play for both teams. Certainly one would agree that survival is the first priority, but are we really trying to take the road less traveled to tell friends and family that you didn’t call 911 when you encountered someone who overdosed because you were afraid of the legal ramifications? I’ll also note that if, as conservatives, we value life as much as we claim we do, we shouldn’t use fear of legal ramifications as a driving force for decision making.
I could make the same argument for self-defense. “I was scared to shoot the man rummaging through my home, holding a knife, because it’s illegal to kill someone.” There could be legal repercussions from actions taken in those situations, yet, people still make the choice to defend themselves.
Another argument is that anyone who legally takes opioid medication (like Percocet, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Methadone, Lortab, etc) could benefit from this legislation as well. Unfortunately, this logic is flawed. If someone is prescribed a medication, the likelihood of failing to call 911 over legal ramifications is next to zero. In fact, a large portion of overdose cases from these types of medicines come from legal prescriptions and legal dosage levels.
(Also, point of personal privilege: The word “Amnesty” has horrific connotations due to immigration reform. One would think that conservatives could come up with a better word to use in the title of the bill..yes? no? maybe?)
Now, I understand that many times drug overdoses are directly correlated to addiction and disease, but the role of the legislature is not to enact laws that categorize to what groups of people the law is applicable. Addiction is a sickness and painful for everyone involved but we cannot discredit current laws on the books. We don’t need another feel-good, tug-at-your-heart-strings law. If the law is good for one, it should be good for all and should be applied equally and justly. Sometimes good intentions make bad policy. This is one of those times.